Thursday, 30 April 2015

Erin Walsh: Holy Boldness: Narsai and Jacob of Serug Preaching the Canaanite Woman

The exegetical history of the Canaanite Woman from the Gospel of Matthew  (15:21-28) in patristic sources has received little attention from historians of biblical interpretation. Within the corpus of Syriac literature, both Narsai and his younger contemporary, Jacob of Serug, composed verse homilies on this particular biblical pericope. This paper will compare the strategies both authors employ to explain the exegetical issues raised by the enigmatic exchange of Jesus with a non-Israelite woman. While Jacob’s homily exists in an edited form, Narsai’s homily on the Canaanite woman (Homily XXXII) has heretofore been unedited and unpublished. [1]I have prepared a critical edition and translation based on two of the four manuscripts containing the homily:  the oldest extant manuscript, ms. Diyarbakir 70 and ms. Vat. Syr. 594. The two other manuscripts (ms. M3 and M5) are currently at the Chaldean Patriarchate and inaccessible. Narsai and Jacob present the Canaanite Woman as a model for Christian emulation, showing a particular concern for her bold speech. Given the respective positions of these two exegetes within the Western and Eastern Syriac traditions, the present project promises to contribute to our understanding of how the schools of Edessa and Nisibis diverged and what continuities may still be detected in the works of the two Syriac poets.

[1]Sebastian Brock, “Guide to Narsai’s Homilies” in Hugoye 12.1 (2009). Brock provides a convenient guide to manuscripts and editions of Narsai’s homilies, using the numbering system of A. Mingana and Macomber.

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